I’m preparing for this summer by looking for some good reading material for a group of interns that I will be leading in some discussion on worship leading. I was a little disappointed that in all my excellent books on worship and music, I couldn’t find any clear presentation of the role of the gospel of Jesus, our Great High Priest, in giving us access to the Throne of worship. It’s easy to list all the things that a “worship leader” needs to have: a heart for Jesus, Spirit-led voice, a pastor’s heart, the passion of a warrior, wisdom and theological training, the hands of a cheetah, guitar tone like a hot-buttered chainsaw, the list goes on and on. Those are all good things to pursue, but the foundation on which all our worship is the cross of Jesus Christ.

Nothing in my hands I bring

As fallen and idolatrous people, we can bring nothing to God that would make our worship acceptable in His sight. One of the most frightening stories in the Bible is when Aaron’s sons bring “unauthorized” incense before the presence of God. Fire roasts them alive like Nazis in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. The one true God is holy, holy, holy, so don’t be bringin’ no unauthorized incense up in here. Don’t fool yourself to think that you have any worship to bring to the Lord that will be acceptable. In order to come to worship on our own merits, we have to mentally reduce God into a idol that we can manipulate and then pretend and perform as if we are flawless saints. But, the truth is that God has never had any need for our sacrifices; the blood of bulls and goats can’t save anybody. The whole point of the tabernacle and the temple worship was demonstrating faith in the Lord’s mercy and grace to redeem and forgive a people who don’t deserve it. Our hands are empty when we approach God in worship.

Now, I approach the throne, and I have confidence

We can only come to worship by the blood of the Great High Priest whose blood speaks and defends us. His blood covers us, atones for our sin, justifies the wicked, and gives us confidence to come to the throne. The Blood is a sign that we have been adopted into the family as sons and daughters. Now that we are in the family, we can come in to the banquet of grace and participate in the celebration and adoration of the Father. This is good news for sinners. How many times does the enemy accuse us with our list of failures? How many times do we start to believe the lies that our effort, our emotion, our thoughts, or our heart attitude have to get right before we can sing a song of praise to Jesus. Bring your sin right out into the front of your heart in worship. Give the Lord your sins and cry out, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I come from a people of unclean lips!” When we cry out to the Father from the mire of our sin, the blood and the resurrection are the firm Rock on which we stand and the source of the new song that is placed in our mouths. It’s all the gospel from first to last.